Everything You Need to Know About Safer Sunscreen

If you consistently lather up with sunscreen before spending time outdoors, you’re probably already feeling like you’re ahead of the game. And you kind of are! According to CBS News, only one-third of people apply sunscreen to all of their exposed skin (per medical recommendations). Being in a consistent routine with safer sunscreen — especially in the summertime — is absolutely a victory.

But there’s more to sunscreen than you’ve heard about from advertising… and maybe even from your dermatologist. While mainstream, readily available sun protection brands do have a pretty good track record of minimizing risk of skin cancer (for those who use it properly, of course!), they aren’t exactly doing you any other favors health-wise, and people are starting to notice.

P.S. More recently, chemical filters in sunscreens have been linked to the killing off of coral reefs. It’s why Hawaii, and recently Florida have newly passed a bill to ban these types of sunscreens from being sold in the state.

beautycounter countersunk

Everything You Need to Know About Safer Sunscreen

There’s more to it than the SPF number

Here’s a fact you’ve probably never even thought about: Many of the sunscreens you’re probably most familiar with are known as chemical sunblocks. These products actually absorb into your skin, ultimately absorbing UV rays so they can be converted into heat and released from your body. Active ingredients in these sunscreens typically include avobenzone, octinoxate, and oxybenzone. Think about it for a sec — if these chemical sunscreens are to work properly, those chemicals need to be fully absorbed into your body. Do you want your skin absorbing things that are known to be harmful to your health, or just anything that you can’t even pronounce? No, thanks.

If you are unsure of the ingredients in the sunscreen you thought was decent, EWG.org/skindeep is my go-to resource to search and learn about the ingredients in my products. You simply search an item, and see it’s toxicity rating based on the ingredients and can read about why those ingredients aren’t good for you. It’s pretty awesome!

Now, all of this isn’t to scare you! The good news is that you don’t have to avoid sunscreen altogether in order to avoid these chemicals, and the answer is certainly not to stop wearing sunscreen. There are alternatives! It’s a good thing, too, because I want to help you preserve your healthy skin and stay glowing and ageless forever. 

Safer Sunscreen Guide

Is mineral sunscreen better than chemical?

The best alternative for chemical sunscreen is a category of sun protection called mineral sunscreen.

Look for mineral sunscreens that feature zinc and titanium dioxide as their active ingredients, rather than the chemicals present in most conventional products. This makes your sunscreen a lot cleaner and safer. Mineral sunscreens use these active ingredients to physically block the rays from your skin — they actually reflect the suns rays. As an added bonus, many mineral sunscreens are fragrance-free, which is a win for babies, kids, and anyone with sensitive skin and can help you further streamline the dangerous chemicals being absorbed into your body. 

Ingredients you should avoid when searching for sunscreen are:

  • Oxybenzone
  • Octinoxate 
  • Retinyl Palmitate
  • Fragrance

best mineral sunscreen

The best mineral sunscreens

My personal pick for my family is Beautycounter’s sunscreen line, Countersun.

Here’s why: Beautycounter just happens to be the market leader in safer, mineral sunscreen. I trust them for their skincare, make-up, and mission, and their triple-tested Countersun line is no different, (plus it’s reef safe)! Beautycounter’s sunscreen offers all of the benefits of sun protection without the dangers associated with many of the products you can buy at your local pharmacy or grocery store. Please, do your research when you pick up that sunscreen that looks good in CVS!

Countersun (Beautycounter’s mineral sunscreen line) has a lotion, a non-aerosol mist, and a face stick, and the line now includes tinted sunscreens — a little extra glow, anyone? — and an aftersun cooling gel, to help ease the pain of a little too much time spent catching rays. Basically, all of your bases are now officially covered… and a lot more safely! 

Here’s a handful of other miner sunscreen options that pass the test:

Beautycounter Sunscreen

Here are a few of my go-to tips for applying Beautycounter’s safer mineral sunscreen: 

Just because these products are great (which they are) doesn’t mean that they can prevent 100% of sunburns. Mineral sunscreen and chemical sunscreen are quite different, and user error is a real thing in the world of sun protection.

1. Re-apply! Sunscreen is not a one and done proposition. Even the best of these products needs to be re-applied on a regular basis, usually according to the instructions on the package.  Adding another layer of protection approximately every hour or two is probably a safe bet (pun intended!). Be extra careful if you’re spending a lot of time in the water. Water resistant is not the same as waterproof, so make sure to reapply after or taking a dip or sweating on a run!

2. Application must be visible. Mineral sunscreen can only do their job if you can actually see where they’ve been applied on your skin. Before you start the process of rubbing in your sunscreen, make sure that the sheer-white formula (or the new tinted formula!) is visible on your body. We’re not talking about a clear mist here!

3. Zinc does not expire. Zinc is one of the active ingredients in mineral sunscreen, and as if its ability to fight the sun’s dangerous rays wasn’t enough to sell you on it, it also never expires as a protective agent! This means that it will be effective for years after purchase. All sun protection products are required by law to list an expiration date, but if you’re using a mineral sunscreen, time isn’t of the essence. If your safer sunscreen stash lasts longer than expected, it will keep working! 

4. Shake before use. Zinc can settle in the sunscreen’s packaging, so wake it up a bit before applying with a little shake! Doing this will ensure that zinc — AKA your sun protective agent — is distributed evenly every time you lather up, keeping your glow even and your whole body safe. 


Generally speaking, I encourage you to never underestimate the sun. It is so powerful, and even the best of sunscreens won’t help if you’re not sure to use them properly. Be careful, be safe, and have fun in the sun!

Safer Sunscreen

P.S. Want some other reads? This article from NY Post is really informative and this one from CNN is as well.


Disclosure: There may be affiliate links in this post! By clicking on them, or purchasing recommended items I may receive a small compensation, at no cost to you! However, I only recommend products I absolutely love and use on my own body. Thank you for supporting Lexi’s Clean Kitchen when you shop.

Why I Switched Our Cleaning Supplies

Household cleaners and soaps are some of the biggest offenders of toxins in homes and they can routinely expose us to chemicals that can affect us to varying degrees ranging from minor skin irritation to hormone disruption or cancer. If you’re cleaning up what you’re putting IN your body, you should care what you put ON your body, and what you put in your environment. Period. There are safe cleaning products out there.

Most every household contains traditional cleaning supplies that are laced with toxic chemicals that are harmful. We’re exposed to them routinely — from the phthalates in synthetic fragrances to the noxious fumes in oven cleaners. Ingredients in common household products have been linked to asthma, cancer, reproductive disorders, hormone disruption and neurotoxicity. According to the Environmental Working Group, using them just once a week can have a harmful effect.

Why I Switched Our Cleaning Supplies

How Toxic Are Your Cleaning Supplies?

Toxic chemicals in conventional household cleaners vary in their severity – from immediate hazards such as skin or respiratory issues, chemical burns or watery eyes to long term major problems such as cancer, fertility issues, ADHD, compromised immune system and more.

It can be overwhelming to to start to realize how many toxic chemicals are in our home, and I’m not saying we can avoid exposure to toxic chemicals altogether, but it is possible to reduce it, and significantly decrease our risk of illness. Some chemicals build up and can cause enough harm in our bodies over time, that can trigger harmful effects. So knowledge is power.

How Do I Find Out What are Truly Safe Cleaning Products?

Here’s the thing: there’s so much we cannot control, but for the things we can, and use daily, why wouldn’t we do a little research and make safer swaps for our families? At the very least, we should be aware of what is in them! I use two resources in our home to identify how toxic our products are. One is EWG.ORG/SKINDEEP and the other is the Think Dirty APP. Both are apps that you can use to scan barcodes in your home, and see how toxic your current products are. Pretty cool, right?

It can be slightly terrifying when you start scanning your products, but remember: make small changes and do the best you can. I’m not advocating you throw out every product in your home right now, but rather once you are informed you can try to make the best choices you can going forward.

What are the Harmful Chemicals in Household Cleaning Products to Avoid?

Here are a few to look out for:

1. Phthalates: Often found in many household products with a fragrance, such as air fresheners, dish soap, even toilet paper. Because of proprietary laws, companies don’t have to disclose what is in their scents, so you won’t find phthalates on a label. If you see the word “fragrance” on a label, there’s a good chance phthalates are present.

2. Perchloroethylene or “PERC”: Often found in dry-cleaning solutions, spot removers, and carpet and upholstery cleaners.

3. Triclosan: Found mostly in liquid dishwashing detergents and hand soaps labeled “antibacterial.”

4. Quarternary Ammonium Compounds, or “QUATS”: Fabric softener liquids and sheets, most household cleaners labeled “antibacterial.”

5. 2-Butoxyethanol: Often found in window, kitchen and multipurpose cleaners.

6. Ammonia: Find them in polishing agents for bathroom fixtures, sinks and jewelry; also in glass cleaner.

7. Chlorine: You’ll find this in toilet bowl cleaners, mildew removers, laundry whiteners, household tap water.

8. Sodium Hydroxide: An ingredient often in oven cleaners and drain openers.

Why I Switched Our Cleaning Supplies

A Note on “All Natural Cleaners”

This might surprise you, but many “all-natural” cleaners found in grocery and health food stores still have harmful chemicals and may even score worse than conventional cleaning products. This is where those handy apps above come in handy. Again, do your own research!  

What Safe Cleaning Products are in my Home:

I avoiding conventional household products as much as possible and have found great alternative, safe swaps for cleaning products, laundry detergent, dryer sheets, and air fresheners. Here are some options for you:

  • You can make your own DIY household cleaners: LCK Food Editor Kelli uses a mixture of Dr. Bronner’s Castille Soap, Water, and Essential Oils for almost all cleaning tasks. For heavy duty jobs she also will add in baking soda.
  • All-Purpose Cleaning Products: I use Branch Basics for my Bathroom, All-Purpose Counter Cleaner, Glass, and hand soap!
  • Laundry Detergent: Again, I use Branch Basics. I also use their Oxygen Boost for my Whites. I’ve also heard Molly’s Suds is a good brand, but haven’t personally tried it!
  • Dryer Sheets: I use Dryer Balls (see this post).
  • Air Freshener: I use this home spray by The Laundress or safer candles by Phlur.

For me, Branch Basics is literally magic. Their multi-purpose concentrate makes cleaning simple, affordable and sustainable. The products are refillable and they’re significantly less expensive than similar single-use products. You dilute The Concentrate with water, and then it’s ready for any cleaning job around the house, even dirty laundry!

A word from the Branch Basics team:

“We’re not fans of shipping water. Our multi-purpose concentrated cleaner makes cleaning simple, sustainable, safe and affordable. Just dilute with water in our spray and foamer bottles (complete with marked fill lines) and you’re all set to effectively tackle every room in the house and your laundry too! Our kits come with everything you need to get started or you can purchase the concentrate in whatever size it best for you.”

Safer Cleaning Products

Discount for you:

My friends at Branch Basics let me give you 15% off starter kit with code LEXI15! The starter set includes one 33 oz. Concentrate, three empty spray bottles, one Foaming Wash bottle, one Laundry bottle, and then I add the oxygen boost and dryer balls to my order.
 

I was not paid to write this post, though it does contain affiliate links. Here’s my promise to you. While I make a small percentage on sales used through my code, this is the brand I TRUST. I PERSONALLY use them in my home for my family, and no super small amount of commission is worth compromising your trust. So please trust me when I say I would never promote a product that I don’t fully stand behind.
Safer Cleaning Products